Monday, May 19, 2008

The Reality-Based Community: The enduring evil of the Bush years

The seeming collapse of the Republican Party in the face of a Perfect Electoral Storm has many people worried.

Michael O'Hare -- Reality-Based Community worries that the Democrats will be flabby and overconfident from too easy a win, or something:
Democrats need respectable, responsible resistance from conservatives to be good Democrats, just as tennis and poker players are no good facing potzers and fish. . . . Obama needs to beat a contender, not a pushover, to be a good president. If you thought the last eight years were a nightmare, you should expect a completely unrestrained period of Democratic governance to be almost as awful. . . .
The blame for this state of affairs lies entirely with Bush and the Republican enterprise of the last few years (maybe a little with Democrats for not being able to beat him decisively at the polls). They're reaping the just and fair whirlwind of a cynical, unprincipled, unconservative substitution of winning elections at any cost to institutions, and plain old money greed, for a theory or method of governance. Their incompetence and venality has now driven decent and credible people out of their nomination process, so they wind up stuck with what appears to be a hopeless candidate at the top, and vacant seats to win down the ticket. I despise them for all of it, but most of all because they have set themselves on a path to a collapse so complete, into candidacies and incumbencies so pathetic, that we will have an election, and then a government, without the kind of resistance, testing, and pushback that is essential to any policy-making process and administration.

The answer to this is simple enough. These are not your father's Democrats. The composition of the Democratic Party will shift, it will become (internally) more conservative, even as political power returns to the hands of Democratic Progressives.
The Republican Party have not offered a "respectable, responsible resistance" since 1994; nor did Democrats. That's why the Perfect Political Storm did not arrive to sweep Bush out of Office.
The Republicans are on course to monumental defeat, because they are useless. But, it is a mistake to imagine that the Democrats, who replace them are anywhere near as monolithic ideologically as the Republicans. This is a Big Tent Democracy, which is replacing Karl Rove "50.00% + 1 is a Mandate" style of governance. There will be "respectable, responsible resistance" within the Democratic Party. The moderate/conservative wing of the Democratic Party is being reinvigorated more by this election than the Progressives.

The real and vital question will be whether the Progressives are ready to lead moderate, but militant Democrats in accomplishing great things. We won't find that out in this election campaign, nor should we expect to. The Democrats are united by what they are against, and what they are against is the Republican agenda of torture, national bankruptcy, business and political corruption, and perpetual, pointless war. That they are divided over what they are for, is irrelevant to the present contest. When they have the power to govern, they will have to compromise among themselves, and then they will succeed or fail in governing the country. For the moment, it is enough to lead the country away from its present course.

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